Something You Didn’t Know About Publishing on Kindle, But Definitely Should

NOTE: If you are an indie author, or a self-publisher, you’re going to want to take a second to read this. The following is from my own experience and is, therefore, my own opinion. But, there are lots of facts you’ll want to know about what Kindle’s Automatic Book Update feature is, how it works when publishing on Kindle, and whether or not it’s useful for indie authors and other self-publishers.

I didn’t know this… and I’m pretty good about stalking up tons of information online when it comes to ideas or companies I try. But, I didn’t know this, and I am pissed at myself for it.

If you didn’t know by now, or didn’t have a clue from my other posts… I’m a complete perfectionist. I’m also an editor myself (though editing my own work is a bad idea and thus I hire two editors) and pride myself on finding little blips.

Let’s face it. Every author has them. And, every editor does them. No matter how great an editor is, they’re not perfect. Even with two or three editors on your side, there’s going to be flurfles. You know… blerfs.

That said, what’s wonderful about indie publishing is that we can fix them rather quickly.

As opposed to more traditional means of publishing where once a mistake is in there, it’s freaking in there for a while, we can edit and re-upload almost instantaneously. And, so we do. For example, I found a typo in my copyright page for Convergence and a weird spacing in a couple of chapters when I was working through the audiobook podcast version. So, after a few deep calming breaths, I ran over to my Adobe inDesign file for the paperback, fixed it, exported it, and re-uploaded the paperback version of the book. Then, I scampered over to Sigil, edited my ebook versions, and re-uploaded them accordingly.

Then, I exhaled and drank a glass of wine. (Moscato. Very nice.) And took a deep breath.

But… here’s the thing.

While CreateSpace accepted and replaced the new file within their 48 hour window (fine) and Smashwords instantly replaced it and would disperse to other vendors over time (acceptable), Kindle said they’d instantly replace the old file with the new, once pending approval finished.That would’ve been groovy… except…

They didn’t.

Kindle doesn’t work like that. While they did replace the file with the properly spaced one, they didn’t push the new file to pre-existing owners. It only went to new purchases. So, when I told the person I’d fixed their name in the credits, they couldn’t see the corrected copy. My heart stopped. I felt awful. And then, to make matters worse, they told me that my shiny new covers, which I had just released, weren’t showing up either.

So, I did what any OCD perfectionist indie author would do. I muted the phone and squeaked quite loudly.

Then, I asked if they had the “auto-update” feature that Kindle users should have checked, and they said yes.

So why wasn’t it working?

Because the “Auto-Update” feature really isn’t all that automatic.

Come to find out, through talking with KDP directly, that while the “Auto-update” feature must be checked when logged in on Amazon.com through “Manage My Kindle” that doesn’t mean it updates anything unless KDP deems it “critical.” And, for the most part, they don’t seem to deem much critical. Only when they clear something as major, will they email and automatically push the update to users, so long as the “Automatic Book Update” option is turned on through: http://amazon.com/mycd.

What happens if they don’t deem your updates critical?
Nothing… unless the user forces the update themselves.

To force an update, the user has to either go into their library on: http://amazon.com/mycd and force deliver a new version, or they have to delete and re-download through their Kindle directly.

When I asked KDP what’s the point of Auto-Update if it only works for what they consider important, not what might actually be important to the content creator, they didn’t seem to have an answer.

I mean… sure, I get it. They have lots of updated content daily. But why can’t they reevaluate what they consider critical? Or, why can’t they allow content creators to submit a request for an automatic update push for their own critical reasons as opposed to allowing them to email, but then dictating what is and isn’t important (to KDP)?

Believe me, I asked.

In fact, here’s their initial reply to when I tried to get them to update the covers on their end:

We received your request to give updated content to customers who purchased your book. In order to confirm content updates, please provide details and examples of the corrections made to the book.  Once we confirm you completed the improvements, we will take any appropriate action within 4 weeks.

1. If we find the changes you made to your content are critical, we’ll send an e-mail to customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.

2. If the changes made to your content are to correct minor quality issues, we won’t notify customers by e-mail, but we’ll activate their ability to update the content through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.

3. If the changes made to your content create unexpected critical issues with the book content, we’ll temporarily remove your book from sale and inform you of the issues found so you can fix them.

We will only make the content updates available to your customers after we confirm you completed the improvements necessary to correct quality issues present in the earlier version. To read more about what issues we consider critical, please visit our Help  page: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1MMQ0JHRBEINX

Can an author please speak for themselves?

Again, I totally get not auto-pushing everything. But, I call bullshit on what they deem critical.

Copyright accuracy is critical. Covers, no, but they are critical to the brand an author creates. Also, remember those imperfect editors? That’s critical to the artist creating the content. And yes, it was most certainly my mistake in the first place, but I’m only human and it happens. It happens to all creatives, especially writers.

So, dearest KDP and Amazon, I hope that one day soon you reconsider the options you give authors for pushing updates to our readers. Because, right now, you’re looking like you care more for mass quantity over sheer quality and that makes this author, very, very, very sad.

And, to my fellow indies and other self-publishing authors, now you know. Right?
And, that’s half the battle.

Okay, it’s more like two-thirds the battle… but yeah…

So, what do I do now?

I guess I’ll just have to send a blast out to my readers. I’ve handled most of the fan mail about the new covers thus far, but I keep having this dogging fear that I just might find this error my betas and editors missed, I’ll fix it, and then the corrected flurfle will never see light of day. For this OCD perfectionist, that’s a bit hard to bear… and I have to wonder, do traditionally published authors/publishers have this issue, too? Or is it just because we’re different and breaking from tradition, testing new limits?

Is this another double standard for the indie/self-pub vs. traditional publishing folks?

I already have one really baffling double standard – reviews – at hand. I don’t know if I can take another. I mean, for those of us who take this very seriously and with utmost passion, we are the more paranoid of the author breeds.

We hire and contract out our work to other professionals. We baby our work. We love our work. We crave putting out quality. So, when we have some slip ups – because we didn’t pick the right editor, or our editor just missed it, or eight betas and two editors and you missed it – we are often times damn-near crucified if a few minor slip ups occur. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there is a huge difference between minor flurfles and full-on grammar/spelling assassinations. But, you’re pretty safe to bet if someone has credited an editor, that the editor did their job. So it does, sometimes-often-frequently, grind my gears that while indie authors and self-pub authors do have a track record of being free-for-all in some ways, when we do take the steps and we happen to misstep along the way, we get long-winded rants, or insulting reviews.

I’ll be the first to admit that you can learn something useful from every review, especially neutral or negative ones.

But, why aren’t there more reviews about spelling errors or typos in traditional publishing? Is there automatically an acceptance that they tried and it’s okay because they’re human that isn’t applied to indie/self-pubs who hired editors? Is it just people being mean because they haven’t finished their own masterpiece? Or any story period? Why is that double standard there, really?

I mean, I sat here, asking myself if I would write a, “Hey you missed 8 typos in Harry Potter,” to JK Rowling? Heck no, I wouldn’t. But I did email her publisher… And, for my indie friends, when I see typos, I don’t put it in reviews unless it actually destroys/affects the flow of reading the book. I’ll just email them, because I figured they’re probably perfectionists like me, too. So then, why don’t other people do that? And why do they only call out the mistakes of self published works or indie press?

Alas… I digress on a topic of reviewers both good, great, bad, and downright awful. I suppose that belongs in another post, doesn’t it?

Back to my main point…

Authors beware of the Kindle Automatic Book Update feature. Understand its nuances. Understand its mechanism. Understand its flurfles. And then, hope KDP takes it one step further and makes it just a bit better and, hopefully, more indie-friendly.

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